I have been woefully behind on my books and posting for the last couple of weeks, so I am glad to be officially caught up. I finished reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout this evening. Unlike the previous collection of short stories, this one was an easy read. These are unique in that the titular character is the center of attention while she does not inhabit all the pages of the book. She merely walks in and out of the lives of the small town folk, sometimes with only a mention. This brought to mind the way that we interact with one another, some people are of more importance than others. In the grand scheme of things only certain people will have a story that links up with a particular person's story; others end up as footnotes. The wonder of this book lies in examining the strings that connect us and keep us at a distance at the same time.
I believe Olive is a character worth reading (I mean those Pulitzer people are never wrong, right?). I found her to be longing, like so many other characters for acceptance and love, not realizing (until way too late in life) she had both all along. Not to get all armchair psycho-babble on you, this is the part of Olive that is too often in most people. I love the quote towards the end of the book regarding her faithful, put-upon, and resilient husband. "Oh God, yes, she was glad she'd never left Henry. She'd never had a friend as loyal, as kind, as her husband." I hope I do not have to wait until my years number in the 70s to realize the love that surrounds me and puts up with me (so maybe I just did).
An interesting other element of the story is the pervasiveness of mental illness in a small town. I am not sure the author would view her rich characters in the same way, but they, for the most part, were either messed up in the head or knew somebody that was. This played into the whole nature vs. nurture debate, with nature declaring the clear victory in these people seriously in need of a therapist. I don't know if she intended to make a statement on the ways of a small town society in this way, but it seems the ratios were a little off in this town.